KariTurner1_smIn October 2019, Kari Turner was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. It happened during a monumental time in her life as she was preparing for her last year of the three-year Fresno State Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Turner questioned how she would be able to manage the rigorous demands of the doctoral program with her personal life. It even left her questioning if she had the potential to one day even become a practicing physical therapist.

“The vision I had of my future changed overnight and I was grieving,” Turner said. “I wasn’t used to being the patient, I wanted to treat patients.”

Turner says she is grateful for the support she received from her loved ones and the faculty in the Department of Physical Therapy, who reminded her that her dreams were still within reach no matter what obstacles came her way. 

“It is amazing how you can lift someone up with the smallest gestures when they feel like they hit rock bottom,” Turner said. “Those small gestures of kindness encouraged me to keep going. They taught me that as a physical therapist I can make a huge difference in people’s lives without even realizing it.”

Now, Turner is one step closer to her dreams. This past Saturday, she graduated with her Doctorate in Physical Therapy and is excited for her future in the field, where she aspires to work in an outpatient orthopedic setting with a focus on pediatrics. She says working with infants on their motor milestones, along with their families, is a reward she can’t wait to experience. She credits her education in the physical therapy program for helping her get there.

“The DPT program has given me the platform to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy,” Turner said. “Physical therapy is a science – meaning it is evidence-based, backed by science, rather than simply an art. The doctorate degree provides me the opportunity to conduct research in the field, analyze existing research, and then apply findings to my own patients. I am thankful that the DPT program exposed me to all facets of physical therapy so I have an in-depth understanding of what the field has to offer.”

Turner (front row, center) and her cohort at the DPT pinning ceremony, August 2017.

Turner says her fascination of physical therapy began right here in the Central Valley. At the age of 19, her uncle helped her obtain a job as a physical therapy aide at Fresno-based clinic, Function & Action Physical Therapy. From there, she began to see the physical therapy profession in action and it spurred a passion within her that has carried throughout her academic journey at Fresno State. 

“I loved the work environment; it was social and fast-paced,” Turner said of her experience. “I liked the idea of having a career where I wouldn’t be stuck behind a desk and could interact with people one-on-one. The physical therapists I had the opportunity to work for were awesome. I admired them because they were great at their jobs, laid back, fun-loving, and overall well-balanced individuals. They all happened to be alumni from Fresno State’s PT program so I followed in their footsteps and applied to the program.”

Prior to entering the program, Turner obtained her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, with an emphasis in exercise science in 2015. Afterwards, she began the physical therapy program in fall 2017. 

Looking back, Turner says she is humbled by her own health care experiences, and hopes to utilize it in a positive light for her future patients. 

“My own health issues have given me an entirely new perspective in life,” Turner said. “It has filled me with empathy and allows me to connect with patients in a deeper way. Health is a treasure and you do not know the value of it until it is threatened.  As a soon-to-be physical therapist, I understand the platform I have been given to care for others and how impactful my actions may be.”

On the horizon, Turner is committed to serving the Valley she has grown to love. 

“I was born and raised in Fresno and have had the opportunity to watch our community grow,” Turner said. “I attended high school at Clovis East when it was surrounded by empty fields. Now it has grown into a thriving community and Fresno State has blossomed into a beautiful campus, home to one of the best DPT programs in the state! Fresno State provides affordable schooling without lacking quality to a large and growing community. I am forever Bulldog born, bulldog bred!”